Schell was recruited by WVU for his good speed, quickness, and toughness. In 1973, as a sophomore, he played at right cornerback behind Charlie Miller in nine games. In 1974, he became the first string cornerback. Schell was chosen All-North Georgia and All-Region while at Clarke Central High School. Coach Bowden said, "Johnny surprised us all last spring with his good corner play; he is a solid football player."